Translation and democracy

Authored by: Nicole Doerr

The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Politics

Print publication date:  April  2018
Online publication date:  April  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138657564
eBook ISBN: 9781315621289
Adobe ISBN:


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Translation’s democratizing potential has been studied by students of comparative literature, social movements, and transnational democracy, but it has received less attention in political theories of democracy. In this contribution, I give a survey of theories of translation and democratic dialogue, drawing on comparative literature; sociology; feminism; psychology; and on the philosophy of language, culture, and theories of political participation and social movements. Based on an interdisciplinary perspective of translation in the literature, I will then review existing political science theories of democracy, dialogue and deliberation. I provide a sociological critique of democratic theories to explore how structural inequality creates conflict and ‘positional’ misunderstandings within culturally diverse settings for democratic dialogue and deliberation in globalized multilingual societies. Last but not least, I review contemporary practices and radical democratic interventions used by volunteer translators and interpreters and by activists and community translators in both local and transnational contexts in order to address power inequality and heterogeneity within contemporary democratic processes. Based on these grassroots democratic practices, I develop an ample, conceptual theory of political translation that goes beyond the interlingual and that connects the work of translators and interpreters on the ground to the critical thinking of Judith Butler, Jessica Benjamin and Jacques Rancière, trying to find pathways for democracy even within contexts of extreme inequality or domination.

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